It was a process we started via Google Maps "search nearby" feature since we wanted a local church. Then we looked at church websites for statements of faith. We are not fundamentalists, and are not interested in a congregation or denomination that asks us to check our brains at the door. No, the universe is NOT only a few thousand years old; don't insult the red-shifted, light-years long testimony of distant galaxies. The very vastness of the cosmos is part of "the heavens declare the glory of God" to us.
We are looking to become a part of something bigger than ourselves, though, a group that helps real people in the real world - locally, since there is plenty of need in our backyard. A place without noses in the air, where people get their hands dirty helping their neighbors. A place where we self-proclaimed "bible geeks" could learn new things and not hear nonsense opinions instead of simple truths. We narrowed it down to three churches where we knew people, and one where we did not. One of our finalists has a group called "Celebrating Recovery" that helps people hurt by addictions and codependency; another works with local widows and orphans. A third is big on food banks.
Oh, and music that did not make us cringe would be nice.
Church #1 was geographically closest but failed in the cringeworthy music department. Face it, if you are going to be a mostly white church and try to credibly do "contemporary black gospel music" you may run into problems. The pastor was also Foghorn Leghorn, in a suit. I mean, seriously? The guy was a nice enough cheerleader for God, I suppose, but we learned nothing. And they did not do much in the way of service to the community. Cross that one off our list.
Church #2 was a mega-church. I'm not fond of places where I can get lost in huge crowds, but my son and his wife were married there and we really hit it off with the pastor that married them, who runs their Celebrate Recovery group (I've spent 20 years in Al-Anon's adult child program and he wants me to help there). But this church is pretty far away. We actually gave this place two Sundays: one for the Contemporary service and one for the Traditional one. Music for the Contemporary service was too darned loud but the Traditional on was just right. To counter the crowds, they are a cell church with smaller subgroups and one cell group is near us. The traditional service won me over, but Brian is still not sure. Still, if our local cell group is a good fit this might be it. And I'd get to see my son, daughter-in-law, and soon-to-be grand-baby every week! I went to a women's ministry luncheon yesterday and had enormous fun and made friends already. You'd better believe I will be lobbying for this choice unless something better comes along. But I promised Brian we would check out all the places on our list before making a decision.
Church #3 was this Sunday. It is very local, growing, and the music was picture perfect; you could get lost in worshiping the creator in the beauty of song. And this was the church that was really serving local widows and orphans. But the sermon contained factual historic errors presented as fact. We cannot join; it would be like chalk on a blackboard to hear those sermons. Cross that one off our list., too.
Next Sunday will be our visit to Church #4. We do not know anyone there, but they split off a church that was doing enough right that they needed an east and west campus. This is the church big on food banks, which are an enormous need in this economy, and food banks a part of ministry I have been involved in before. Our "final contestant" church may be great, or may be a hot mess. We'll see.
There is an old saying: "If you ever find the perfect church...don't join. You'll mess it up." Whatever place we join will be imperfect, just like us. But we will make a joint decision in the next few weeks. Community is important, and this is where we will find it.